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JSTOR helps people discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. THE FLOWER-SLIPPERS OF VENUS By Lennie Greenlee Illustrated from photographs of natural flowers by Pitcher and Manda, Although they deign to draw sustenance directly from the earth, the flowers of many terrestrial orchids are as ethereal in appearance as the daintier flowery varieties that feed only upon dew and air. The stout stem that binds them together, the fringed flowers of some of the habenarias, or rein-orchids, and the spiranthes, or ladies'-tresses,might almost float away in the air like dandelion-down. The largest and best known family of all, however, the Venus-slippers, or cypri- pediums, are of more substantial texture. Though made upon a very diminutive fairy 'Mast" these slippers are of very good *' make " indeed, enduring sometimes for five or six weeks in a quite presentable condition, after they have been cut and placed in water. A speculative examination of her slippers would lead one to suspect that Venus's foot would no longer be considered the standard of beauty for that member, judged by modern ideas. It could never have been worn as a weapon, like the dagger- pointed shoe of nowadays. But contemplate the comfort of it, ye maids! and you, also, messieurs the bachelors ! Plenty of room here for the cramped toes to spread ; not even a '^common-sense" heel; and long wide laces that free the mind from all anxiety as to fickle and fleet- ing buttons. A very sensible myth was that of the goddess Venus, truly; and when, after her nap under the trees at the edge of the meadow, she soared away skyward, her leaving her jewel- like shoe behind may have been as a pattern for us rather than the piece of forgetfulness we charge her with. Would that our maids and mesdames might receive it so! In poor human- ity's shoes, at present, only the wooden sabots of the rosy- faced Hollanders, and the stealthy, beaded moccasins of the Indian, suggest their shape. It should not be forgotten, in- deed, that this resemblance has already been noted, for in the United States the cypripediums are often known popularly as moccasin-plants, moccasin- flowers and Indian-shoes. Another pretty fable must A VENUS-SLIPPER WITH LONG LACES : CYPRIPEDIUM DOMINIANUM /«84 Vv The Flower-Slippers of Venus needs be invented for that large, branch of the cyp- ripedium family which, in its tropi- cal home, grows •high in the air. 'This, let us con- ^veniently suppose, was some other Clipper, worn on state occasions, that Venus let fall in the tree- tops, for' even divine laces- may be sup- posed, to be treach- erous- - sometimes, and. the goddess may, perhaps, have been as We have come to regard even CYPRIPEDIUM MASEREELIANUM •THE COMMONEST SLIPPER-ORCHID: CYPRIPEDIUM INSIGNE careless of them as the modern maidens of hair-pins. these tree-top cypripeds as terrestrial orchids, because the majority of them can be grown in pots of peat and moss or loam, the only sure dividing line that lay cultivators know, between the epiphytal "flowers of the air" and the "flowers of the earth." Many genera of orchids are so bewilderingly divergent in some varieties, and so alike in really different species, that, as with a number of laelias and cattleyas, they can be distin- guished only by the pollen- masses; but the flower of any cypriped can be told at a glance from those of any other genus by its curious shape. There are two sepals, forming the outer envelope of the flower, when it is rolled up in its cun- ning, curious, club-shaped bud at the top of its stiff, dark, fuzzy stem. As the flower opens the lower sepal is concealed beneath the large pouch which forms the toe of the slipper. :The Flower-Slippers of Venus v28j; CYPRIPEDIUM ALBO-PURPUREUM: WHITE AND CRIMSON The upper or dorsal sepal spreads itself :abov,e the poucK, and is 'usually quite large' and brightly colored. The two petals, one on each side, are drooping spirals, sometimes short, sometimes, long, grow- ing two inches or more in a day. . They form. the *' laces'/ of the fairy slipper.. .Some of the petals of cypripedium have been found to measure thirty inches in length. The Venus-slippers, like all flowers, class themselves into congenial groups. The first and larger of these groups is scattered widely over tropical Asia, where the most casual observer would note the broad, rounded character of its foli- age; while the leaves of the South American, or seleniped- ium clique, are long, narrow and pointed. In the third branch of the famijy are found the Venus-slippers of our north-temperate zone, which possess tall stems that last only a year, though the root is perennial, such as the showy *'spectabile," the rose-pink **acaule," and the yellow ** pubescens" of May and June. Although the thick, shining leaves of all cypripediums are quite handsome, some of the species in the first group, as Cypripedium Lawrenceanum, and Cypri- pedium Hookerae, have foliage beautifully checkered with cream, white, or brown. Many of them have shown themselves so willing to grow under even adverse cir- cumstances, that their culture is now being attempted with considerable success even in ordinary window- boxes. The favorite among them, the brightest, freest of bloom, and most easily cultivated one, seems to be the fine sturdy old Cy- pripedium insigne, which produces radiant flowers of sunshiny yellow, white, and brown. In the intro- duction of one of its hybrids, the beautiful vari- ety Spicerianum, there is a good example of the fluctuation of prices in cypripedium bellatulum 286 The Flower-Slippers of Venus orchids, in regard to which I find the following interesting note : ** A few years ago, a piece of what was sup- posed to be the golden Cypripedium insigne was sent from British India to an Englishman; but on flowering, it proved to be altogether the brightest of Venus-slippers, with a distinct and distinguished air which made every orchid- fancier eager to secure it. Meanwhile, an alert collector had discovered its haunt, and after a four weeks' : .- , ,f' i^ -^ y W''^<iW::\- race with a rival from Calcutta to Manipur, he gathered some thou- sands of plants from the faces of the cliffs whereon they grew, and sent them to London. In January a plant of this cypripedium, variety Spicerianum, commanded $1,250; in May plants were sold at auction for fifty cents." CVPRIPEDIUM L.KVAGATUM Had the price of this orchid de- pended upon the increase of the one plant first imported, very few of us could, even yet, af- ford to enjoy its lovely flowers. A vigorous cyp- ripedium, , if it exerts it- self, may in a year grow large enough to be separated into two or three plants, but this is too high a rate of increase to be commonly ex- pected from such an aristocratic, leisurely-going family as this is. From seeds produced by hybridizing, cypripediums increase more rapid- ly, and the varieties may be multiplied and CYPRIPEDIUM MAGNIFLORUM. CYPRIPEDIUM SCHRCEDERJE The Flower-Slippers of Venus 287 CYPRIPEUIUM HOOKER^E and bearded flowers, with a fierce There is a human expression in many of these odd flowers that almost compels one to make some such fanciful comparison or interpretation. Close beside it, upon the green-house benches, may grow- in striking contrast, the dainty, rosy, little blonde belles of the family, Cypripedium Schlimii, and Cypripedium cardinale, ex- quisite examples of beauty, both in form and in delicacy of col- oring. Cypripedium bellatulum and Cypripedium Godefroyse are pale leopard-like little gnomes, that seem to have caught their complexion from the limestone cliffs where they had their birth. I have sought in vain for the fitness of the name, " Niobe," for the flower to which it be- longs. The blossom has a very bright, charming little face, de- lightfully colored with soft inter-mixed interminably. It is so fascinating a work to dust one flower with pollen from an- other, to watch the seeds ripen and germinate, and the traits of the parents gradually appear as the young plants grow, that it is a wonder more persons do not engage in it. What castles in Spain the owner builds while a group of seedlings is in bud! Cypripedium Harris- ianum was the first artificial hybrid, and its beauty still entitles it to a proud and dignified place as the eldest representative of a family much larger than that of the old woman who lived in a shoe. It blooms twice a year. Artiong the plants growing by thousands upon the benches in a large commercial estab- lishment, I once saw three blooms of this spe- cies joined together in the dorsal sepal, with the rounded pouches hanging below, like a gro- tesque chime of bells. Cypripedium Lawrenceanum, one of the most popular sorts, has wide, defiantly striped warrior-like air that reminds one of Bluebeard. CYPRIPEDIUM CALURUM-ROUGIERI 288 The Flower-Slippers of Venus CYPRIPEDIUM VENUSTUM apple-greens, rich bright browns, vio- let, white and rose. Cypripedium Sedeni, a constant bloomer, and cal- uram, with handsome flowers of deep warm wine-red, are also among the most popular styles of those artificial hybridized varieties which may be termed hand-made Venus-slippers. But there are other terrestrial orchids, too curious and beautiful to be entirely over-shadowed even by Venus herself. The Lycaste, or ' * monk-orchid, ' ' seems likely to have a future as wide as that of the tulips. Of all the tropical orchids it is one of the hardiest in constitution, and perhaps the easiest to cultivate. From deep rose to a tint only less white than the hawthorn, we have a gamu-tof delicious color-tones, and this in a plant conspic- uous for .its broad, fine foliage, and glorious in its ample floral garments. • Even still better known, and held in loving remembrance, is the ** Dove- orchid " (Peristeria elata), called by the Spaniards el Spirito Sancto, or flower of the Holy Ghost. The white waxen blossoms are set upon long, rich spikes, and in the centre of each flower nestles a pure white dove. This plant blooms in mid-sum- mer, and in tropical countries is grown like our garden-lilies. Disa grandiflora, the pride.of. Table Mountain, at the Cape o£ GocdrHope- South Africa, is counted the .showiest and most beautiful ; terrestrial orchid yet discovered.. It also blooriis [n mid- summer, and all the. fire in the heart of the great wild continent seems aflame in the intense scarlet" of its blossoms" They are each three or four inches in diameter, and from one to five are borne upon long stems. Now all the sorts of , terrestrial Qrchids, many of them as beautiful as these, could not, of course, be dwelt upon in this essay. They are well and" fully described in Williams's most complete ** Orchid Manual," by one who loved and knew them thor- oughly; and there are plenty of other ^ sources of , information for the inquir- CYPRIPEDIUM BARBATUM-NIGRUM '^S readCr.